The airplane boys among.., p.9
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.9
 

           John Luther Langworthy
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  CHAPTER IX

  STARTLING NEWS OVER THE WIRE

  "Frank, is he kidding us?" finally cried Larry, turning to the pilot ofthe new biplane; for Andy sometimes liked to joke his chums, as theywell knew.

  "Not this time," replied Frank.

  "And somebody did really and truly shoot at you, then?" gaspedElephant, holding up his hands in horror.

  "Huh! what d'ye think of these holes through the planes?" demandedAndy, drawing attention to the stout tanned cloth that constituted theair-resisting cover of the framework.

  "Oh! my, it's so, as sure as you live!" cried Elephant, thrusting afinger through one of the little openings. "And not five feet awayfrom where you sat. What a terrible shame! Whoever could have been sowicked?"

  "We don't know," returned Andy, soberly. "But we're going to try andfind out. And all I can say is, that if we do, we're going to make itmighty warm for him, no matter who he may be."

  "He ought to be tarred and feathered," gritted Larry. "Of all the meanand contemptible things anybody can do, I think the worst is to shootat a fellow up in a balloon or an aeroplane. Because they can't fireback; and the least accident means death to the aviator!"

  "Bully for you, Larry!" exclaimed Andy.

  "My sentiments exactly," remarked Elephant, with a vim.

  Poor Stuttering Nat wanted to echo what Larry had said; but of coursethe excitement had seized him in its grip, so that words positivelyrefused to pour from his parted lips. So after making a great effort,amid much twisting of his facial muscles, he contented himself withpatting Larry on the back, and nodding, as if to stand for everythingthe other had said.

  "Well, let's drop that subject for the present, fellows," Franksuggested. "We saw that you had visitors while we were away, Larry?"

  "Why, yes. Your friend, Mr. Marsh, dropped in to say howdyedo. Hebreezed in some unexpectedly to us, for we happened to be all insidewhen he stepped across the sill, and said he was delighted to renew ouracquaintance."

  "Yes, go on, please!" urged impatient Andy.

  But there was no hurrying Larry. When he had anything to tell healways insisted on narrating it after his own fashion.

  "Of course I jumped for him right away," he went on, slowly; "andmanaged to escort him outdoors, all the while explaining how Frank herehad plainly left word that nobody was to be allowed inside the shopbesides us three."

  "How did he seem to take it?" asked Frank.

  "Oh! he wasn't at all flustered, as far as I could see," came the readyreply. "Elephant here says he saw him frown, and bite his lips, as Igrabbed his arm and hustled him out; but I only saw him smile, pleasantlike; and then he said it was all right, and that he didn't blame youone whit for being careful--that perhaps if you knew him better youmight invite him in."

  "He said all that, did he?" Frank continued.

  "Sho! ten times as much. That man has the gift of gab. He can wrapyou right around his finger, I reckon," Larry went on.

  "Told you so!" exclaimed Andy, nodding his head in affirmation.

  "But seems he didn't wrap you around, very much," Frank laughinglysaid; "because you didn't take him back in again, did you?"

  "He never asked me. P'raps I wouldn't a-done it if he had; but I don'tknow. He's sure got a way about him that's terribly convincing," Larrymuttered.

  "And he went off pleasantly, didn't he? I saw you shake hands withhim," continued Frank.

  "As smooth as oil. Why, I can feel his grip yet, it was that strong.Thought my bones'd crack that time. Wonder who Mr. Marsh is, anyway,Frank, do you know?"

  "I do not," was the prompt reply Larry received; for if Frank happenedto have any suspicion, he did not consider it his duty to confide thesame to everybody who expressed the least curiosity.

  When the biplane had been safely housed Frank dodged into the shop asthough to convince himself that nothing had been taken. When theothers followed they found him moving around. Finally he came to astand near the door, and called out once more to Larry:

  "Was he in this far when you discovered him?"

  "What say, boys; it must have been about there, eh?" the one addressedremarked, appealing to his comrades for their opinions.

  "Just about," Elephant answered; while Nat nodded his head as theeasiest way to cut a Gordian knot.

  "Oh! well, he couldn't see anything worth while from here," Frank wenton. "Now, did any of you notice whether he used his eyes to lookaround; or was he only bent on saying howdyedo to you?"

  "When Larry grabbed him by the arm and started to lead him out, I sawthe gentleman take a good look all around; and that's the truth,Frank," Elephant remarked.

  Frank hardly knew what to think. This might be a very significantthing; and then again, if one looked at it another way, was it notsimply what any curious stranger, interested in the doings of theventuresome Bird boys, might have done?

  It was about ten o'clock, and growing quite hot, since the time wasJuly. Just as Andy had hinted, that bank of dark clouds hanging lowalong the horizon in the southwest might take a notion to climb up inthe heavens at any time, and bring about a summer thunderstorm.

  Apparently Frank did not bother his head in connection with such apossibility; for a little later he wheeled his bicycle out of the shedas though intending to leave the others temporarily.

  "Be back in half an hour or so, Andy," he called over his shoulder, ashis cousin came to the door to see what he was about to do.

  "Going over home for something, Frank?" called Andy; but if the otherheard he chose or some reason to decline to commit himself.

  Had Andy been able to follow his course after he left the field hewould soon have known that Frank was rather heading for town thanintending to pedal in the direction of his own house, which wassituated on the outskirts of Bloomsbury.

  And doubtless the curiosity of Andy would have mounted to near thefever pitch did he but know that when Frank jumped from his wheel hestood directly in front of the low building known as policeheadquarters.

  Without any hesitation the boy walked in through the open door. He hadoften been here before; and knew the head of the force very well, alsothe officers who constituted the Chief's staff.

  Chief Waller was bending over his flat-top desk, and evidently readingsome communication or other. He looked up, and on seeing who hiscaller was, smiled amiably; for Frank Bird was a favorite of his, andpossibly the best liked boy in Bloomsbury.

  "Why, glad to see you, Frank; won't you sit down?" he said, offeringhis hand to the boy.

  "I didn't just drop in to chat, Chief," marked Frank, after he hadaccepted the proffered hand, and been favored with a hearty grip.

  "No, I suppose not, because you're a boy of business generally. Well,what can I do for you, Frank?" asked the other, pleasantly.

  "Your phone here is one of the long distance ones, isn't it, Chief?"

  "To be sure, since most of the use we have of it is to talk with otherplaces. Do you want to use it, Frank?" replied the officer.

  "No, but I'd like you to do something for me, and I'll explainafterwards what my reason is," Frank went on.

  "Sure I will, my boy. Do almost anything to oblige you. Now, who doyou want me to get at the other end of the wire?" and as he said thisthe Chief took down the receiver of the desk phone.

  "The penitentiary isn't more than thirty miles away from here, is it?"asked Frank.

  "Whew! what ever would you be wanting to know from there?" the officerremarked.

  "Please call them up and ask whether that man you captured a year ago,up in the Powell woods, is still doing time there."

  "You mean Jules Garrone, do you?" asked Chief Waller.

  "That's the man."

  Still looking at Frank as though wondering what he could mean by such astrange request, the other started operations, and after someskirmishing managed to get in touch with some one who might possibly bethe warder of the State penitentiary.

  "Yes, this is Chief Waller of Bloomsbury," Frank
heard him say. "Howare you, sir? I would like you to give me a little informationconnected with a man I had the pleasure of railroading over your way ayear ago. His name was Jules Garrone, and he was convicted of havingbroken into the jewelry establishment of Leffingwell--what's that,sir?" And Frank, watching closely, could see the lips of the Chiefpursing up, as though he might be tempted to whistle while listening tosomething the party at the other end of the wire was telling him.

  Then, perhaps a minute or so later, the Chief turned around to Frank,as he once more hung up the receiver.

  "Look here, Frank," he said, exhibiting signs of excitement now, "howdid you ever come to know or suspect that?" he demanded.

  "You have told me nothing yet, Chief," Frank remarked, calmly. "But Ijudge from the way you acted that you heard some surprising news fromthe warden at the penitentiary. What about Jules, sir?"

  "He no longer lodges with my friend, the warden," went on Waller. "Infact, to tell the whole truth, there was a jail delivery week ago,which has been kept secret up to now. The warden says he was justsending out the news when I called him. Jules and two other convictsmanaged to break away; and while the others have been recaptured, Julesis still at large!"

 
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